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I Am Not a Label

Written by Cerrie Burnell

Illustrated by Lauren Mark Baldo

Featured Books for 11+ readers Featured Books for 9+ readers People / Places Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE) Politics, Law, Philosophy & Ethics

LoveReading View on I Am Not a Label

Eye-opening, stylish and empowering collection of biographies profiling over 30 disabled creators, thinkers, activists and athletes

34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists from past and present

In this important new resource, author Cerrie Burnell has put together a fascinating collection of inspiring stories. As she says in her introduction when she was growing up as a child born with just one hand  “there just weren’t enough books with a disabled protagonist” and “Everyone deserves to see someone like them in a story and achieving something great” Her own achievements are themselves inspirational and she has long been a disability rights campaigner as well as much loved CBeebies presenter and children’s author and so the whole book is infused with authenticity and passion. A double page spread for each of the 34 role models and two special sections on mental health and “invisible disabilities” are all evocatively illustrated by comic artist and graphic designer, Lauren Baldo capturing the time and spirit of the featured individual  and giving real context to the highly readable and fascinating life stories. Starting in 1770 with Beethoven and finishing in 2001 with the birth of black, transgender disabled model superstar Aaron Philip, the life stories are commendably international and wide ranging, challenging our preconceived ideas of what is possible. From the familiar Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder to the less well known like break dancer Redouan Ait Chit, mountaineer Arunima Sinha, lawyer Catalina Devandas to celebrities like Lady Gaga,whose disability was a complete surprise to me, these stories will open eyes and minds. A comprehensive glossary and helpful discussion of language choices around disability and representation throughout add even more usefulness to this essential and attractive resource.

Joy Court

Other Info

Dear reader,

When I was younger, I wanted to be the child who flew to Neverland, or a magical creature, or a princess in a tower under the spell of a spindle, or have hair so long and tangled that people could climb up it. But none of those children looked like me. That’s because I was born with one hand and for some of my childhood even had an actual hook, so really, I looked far more like a stereotypical pirate than the hero of the story.

Looking back now I realise there just weren’t enough books with a disabled protagonist having daring adventures. This is  something that needs to change. Everyone deserves to see someone like them in a story or achieving something great. Representation matters, because magical things happen when we see ourselves in books, films or on stage, even if that magical thing is realising that we are all of value. We all have a place in the world and we are enough, just as we are. There is a whole world of unknown stories with disabled people at the heart, stories that we are yet to celebrate. Stories of grace and resilience, challenges and empowerment, judgement and reeducation, and perhaps most importantly, stories of humour and everyday life. I have gathered some of my favourite ones together in this book. 

This is an anthology of tales about disabled artists, athletes, activists, thinkers, writers, performers and dreamers, finding joy, normality and wonder in a world that deems us ‘different’ (as though it is something bad). In this book I have choose to use what is called identity-first language, which means I say 'disabled person' instead of 'a person with a disability'. Neither is wrong, or offensive, but it is important to remember that people are disabled by society and do not need to be fixed. If there are any words in the book that you’re not sure about, there is a glossary at the end to help. Each person in this book has led or continues to lead a fascinating life, often overcoming misconceptions and prejudice to do so. I hope you will love reading their stories. I hope they will show you that we are all more than just a label, and that whoever you are, disabled or not, there are no limits to your dreams. 

We all have the power to shine our own light. Everyone deserves to live in an inclusive and accessible world and feel like they belong. A world that embraces difference rather than tries to hide it, and a world where every person’s story is valid.

Big love,

Cerrie Burnell

I Am Not a Label Synopsis

In this stylishly illustrated biography anthology, meet 34 artists, thinkers, athletes and activists with disabilities, from past and present.

From Frida Kahlo to Stephen Hawking, find out how these iconic figures have overcome obstacles, owned their differences and paved the way for others by making their bodies and minds work for them. These short biographies tell the stories of people who have faced unique challenges which have not stopped them from becoming trailblazers, innovators, advocates and makers. Each person is a leading figure in their field, be it sport, science, maths, art, breakdance or the world of pop.

Challenge your preconceptions of disability and mental health with the eye-opening stories of these remarkable people: Ludwig van Beethoven, Gustav Kirchoff, Henri Matisse, Eliza Suggs, Helen Keller, Frida Kahlo, John Nash, Stephen Hawking, Temple Grandin, Stevie Wonder, Nabil Shaban, Terry Fox, Peter Dinklage, Wanda Diaz Merced, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, Dr Victor Pineda, Farida Bedwei, Stella Young, Lady Gaga, Arunima Sinha, Naoki Higashida, Isabella Spingmuhl Tejada, Aaron Philip, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Redouan Ait Chitt, Jonas Jacobsson, Trischa Zorn, Ade Adepitan, and Dynamo.

I Am Not a Label Press Reviews

[Cerrie's] latest book [...] goes a long way in breaking down the stigma surrounding disabilities. -- The Independent

Intelligent, politically bold, and beautiful to browse [...] Every bookshelf needs a copy. - Disability Arts Online

As seen on ITV's Good Morning Britain: This book is there to help us all, to encourage us to talk about how we're all different [...] It's a really, really lovely book, beautifully illustrated as well. - Presenters Ben Shephard & Ranvir Singh

An international and diverse selection of biographies profiling over 30 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists. -- Fiona Noble  The Bookseller

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Good News

All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780711263918
Publication date: 04/05/2021
Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780711247444
Publication date: 07/07/2020
Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780711263918
Publication date: 4th May 2021
Author: Cerrie Burnell
Illustrator: Lauren Mark Baldo
Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 64 pages
Suitable for: 11+ readers, 9+ readers
Genres: People / Places, Personal Social Health Economic , Politics & Law

About Cerrie Burnell

Cerrie Burnell is an actress, singer, playwright, author and former television presenter for CBeebies (2009–2017). She was born with half a right arm and has sought to increase visibility of disabled people through her career in presenting, writing and acting. 

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